Home NFL Denver Broncos Getting what you pay for (or not): Analyzing NFL QB career earnings

Getting what you pay for (or not): Analyzing NFL QB career earnings

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Getting what you pay for (or not): Analyzing NFL QB career earnings

You can’t win the Super Bowl without an elite QB (unless you have an elite defense).

So recently teams have been paying elite QBs insane piles of money.

The on-paper value of Patrick Mahomes’ contract is $450 million. That is about the same amount that Drew Brees and Alex Smith earned combined during their entire careers.

This study will look at career quarterback earnings as available on Sportrac.com.

The big caveat is that this is NOT era adjusted, so John Elway’s or Dan Marino’s earnings are not in “today’s dollars.”

The table below is sorted by dollars earned per start. Chase Daniel is in a class by himself having only started five games in his NFL career (and having only won two). His $7.6 million per start is crazy even by today’s standards of outrageous QB salaries in the NFL.

Top 100 career earners at QB shown:

Rank PLAYER SEASONS EARNINGS Career Starts Dollars per start Career Wins Dollars per win
1 Chase Daniel 12 $37,809,164 5 $7,561,833 2 $18,904,582
2 Jimmy Garoppolo 7 $88,758,637 32 $2,773,707 24 $3,698,277
3 Joe Burrow 1 $24,415,978 10 $2,441,598 2 $12,207,989
4 Drew Stanton 14 $31,951,719 17 $1,879,513 11 $2,904,702
5 JaMarcus Russell 4 $39,365,000 25 $1,574,600 7 $5,623,571
6 Sam Bradford 9 $130,022,863 83 $1,566,541 34 $3,824,202
7 Kevin Kolb 7 $29,003,708 21 $1,381,129 9 $3,222,634
8 Brock Osweiler 7 $41,396,679 30 $1,379,889 15 $2,759,779
9 Matthew Stafford 12 $226,478,969 165 $1,372,600 74 $3,060,527
10 Nick Foles 9 $74,433,635 55 $1,353,339 28 $2,658,344
11 Kirk Cousins 9 $140,640,630 104 $1,352,314 51 $2,757,659
12 Andrew Luck 8 $109,107,998 86 $1,268,698 53 $2,058,641
13 Aaron Rodgers 16 $240,914,529 190 $1,267,971 126 $1,912,020
14 Matt Ryan 13 $243,972,535 205 $1,190,110 113 $2,159,049
15 Jared Goff 5 $80,720,672 69 $1,169,865 42 $1,921,921
16 Carson Wentz 5 $79,059,339 68 $1,162,637 35 $2,258,838
17 Tyrod Taylor 10 $54,301,548 47 $1,155,352 24 $2,262,565
18 Alex Smith 16 $189,725,000 167 $1,136,078 99 $1,916,414
19 Mike Glennon 8 $30,474,126 27 $1,128,671 6 $5,079,021
20 Russell Wilson 9 $162,362,520 144 $1,127,518 98 $1,656,760
21 Ben Roethlisberger 17 $253,286,864 231 $1,096,480 156 $1,623,634
22 Eli Manning 16 $252,280,004 234 $1,078,120 117 $2,156,239
23 Jacoby Brissett 5 $33,230,075 32 $1,038,440 12 $2,769,173
24 Mark Sanchez 10 $74,223,773 73 $1,016,764 37 $2,006,048
25 Philip Rivers 17 $243,917,656 240 $1,016,324 134 $1,820,281
26 Matt Schaub 17 $94,351,582 93 $1,014,533 47 $2,007,480
27 Ryan Tannehill 9 $115,475,979 114 $1,012,947 60 $1,924,600
28 Michael Vick 13 $115,952,908 115 $1,008,286 61 $1,900,867
29 Tony Romo 14 $127,422,458 127 $1,003,326 78 $1,633,621
30 Carson Palmer 15 $174,148,722 181 $962,148 92 $1,892,921
31 Joe Flacco 13 $167,575,000 175 $957,571 98 $1,709,949
32 Drew Brees 20 $269,710,422 286 $943,043 172 $1,568,084
33 Peyton Manning 18 $248,732,000 265 $938,611 186 $1,337,269
34 Cam Newton 10 $125,349,771 139 $901,797 75 $1,671,330
35 Teddy Bridgewater 7 $44,053,408 49 $899,049 26 $1,694,362
36 Marcus Mariota 6 $54,286,134 61 $889,937 29 $1,871,936
37 Tom Brady 21 $263,541,804 299 $881,411 230 $1,145,834
38 Matt Moore 13 $27,519,500 32 $859,984 16 $1,719,969
39 Derek Carr 7 $91,010,601 110 $827,369 47 $1,936,396
40 Kyler Murray 2 $26,302,414 32 $821,950 13 $2,023,263
41 Matt Cassel 14 $65,494,057 81 $808,569 36 $1,819,279
42 Jay Cutler 12 $122,196,087 153 $798,667 74 $1,651,298
43 Robert Griffin III 8 $33,222,399 42 $791,010 16 $2,076,400
44 Deshaun Watson 4 $40,792,361 53 $769,667 28 $1,456,870
45 Brian Hoyer 12 $29,881,470 39 $766,192 16 $1,867,592
46 Colin Kaepernick 6 $43,479,216 58 $749,642 28 $1,552,829
47 Shaun Hill 14 $25,779,225 35 $736,549 17 $1,516,425
48 Vince Young 7 $35,390,000 50 $707,800 31 $1,141,613
49 Josh McCown 18 $52,302,471 76 $688,190 23 $2,274,020
50 Derek Anderson 15 $33,374,303 49 $681,108 20 $1,668,715
51 Sam Darnold 3 $25,733,023 38 $677,185 13 $1,979,463
52 Jameis Winston 6 $47,280,894 70 $675,441 28 $1,688,603
53 Jake Delhomme 14 $63,474,061 96 $661,188 56 $1,133,465
54 Chad Henne 13 $35,330,135 54 $654,262 18 $1,962,785
55 Blake Bortles 7 $47,497,154 73 $650,646 24 $1,979,048
56 Chad Pennington 10 $50,966,000 81 $629,210 44 $1,158,318
57 Baker Mayfield 3 $27,867,591 45 $619,280 23 $1,211,634
58 Donovan McNabb 13 $99,689,735 161 $619,191 98 $1,017,242
59 Case Keenum 9 $38,181,151 62 $615,825 27 $1,414,117
60 Andy Dalton 10 $86,526,241 142 $609,340 74 $1,169,274
61 Marc Bulger 10 $55,391,000 95 $583,063 41 $1,351,000
62 Mitchell Trubisky 4 $29,149,677 50 $582,994 29 $1,005,161
63 Matt Hasselbeck 18 $88,044,500 160 $550,278 85 $1,035,818
64 Byron Leftwich 10 $27,212,000 50 $544,240 24 $1,133,833
65 Kurt Warner 12 $62,773,000 116 $541,147 67 $936,910
66 Patrick Mahomes 4 $24,545,931 46 $533,607 38 $645,946
67 Dak Prescott 5 $36,312,172 69 $526,263 42 $864,576
68 David Carr 12 $40,000,000 79 $506,329 23 $1,739,130
69 Steve McNair 13 $76,234,917 153 $498,267 91 $837,746
70 Ryan Fitzpatrick 16 $71,541,098 146 $490,008 59 $1,212,561
71 Josh Freeman 7 $28,328,824 61 $464,407 25 $1,133,153
72 Brett Favre 20 $137,829,000 298 $462,513 186 $741,016
73 Jake Plummer 11 $58,777,775 136 $432,190 69 $851,852
74 Brad Johnson 17 $53,120,500 125 $424,964 72 $737,785
75 Drew Bledsoe 14 $80,056,250 193 $414,799 98 $816,901
76 Joey Harrington 8 $31,195,000 76 $410,461 26 $1,199,808
77 David Garrard 11 $28,684,000 76 $377,421 39 $735,487
78 Kyle Orton 10 $30,109,000 82 $367,183 42 $716,881
79 Kerry Collins 17 $63,748,000 180 $354,156 81 $787,012
80 Daunte Culpepper 11 $34,990,000 100 $349,900 41 $853,415
81 Steve Young 15 $49,372,000 143 $345,259 94 $525,234
82 Troy Aikman 12 $55,537,000 165 $336,588 94 $590,819
83 Kordell Stewart 11 $28,105,000 87 $323,046 48 $585,521
84 Jeff Garcia 10 $36,637,500 116 $315,841 58 $631,681
85 Jason Campbell 10 $24,454,500 79 $309,551 32 $764,203
86 Neil O’Donnell 14 $30,540,000 100 $305,400 55 $555,273
87 Rich Gannon 17 $36,463,000 132 $276,235 76 $479,776
88 Jeff George 14 $34,180,764 124 $275,651 46 $743,060
89 Jeff Blake 12 $27,026,000 100 $270,260 39 $692,974
90 Jon Kitna 16 $32,755,600 124 $264,158 50 $655,112
91 Trent Dilfer 14 $27,050,000 113 $239,381 58 $466,379
92 Vinny Testaverde 21 $51,055,585 214 $238,578 90 $567,284
93 Randall Cunningham 16 $30,380,000 135 $225,037 82 $370,488
94 Chris Chandler 11 $33,060,000 152 $217,500 67 $493,433
95 Dan Marino 17 $51,510,000 240 $214,625 147 $350,408
96 John Elway 16 $45,445,000 231 $196,732 148 $307,061
97 Warren Moon 17 $37,143,000 203 $182,970 102 $364,147
98 Jim Kelly 11 $28,715,000 160 $179,469 101 $284,307
99 Joe Montana 14 $25,555,000 164 $155,823 117 $218,419
100 Boomer Esiason 14 $25,145,000 173 $145,347 80 $314,313

By career earnings, Brees currently is No. 1, but he will be surpassed in the coming season by the zombie known as Tom Brady.

John Elway earned roughly 45 million during his 16 NFL seasons. Patrick Mahomes was scheduled to earn that in one season prior to his recent contract restructure. Fifteen quarterbacks next season will make more than Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana made during his entire career.

Keep in mind that the table above is only their salaries as NFL players and does not include endorsement earnings.

If you sort the table above by dollars per win, you find that only two players have earned more than $10 million per win – Chase Daniels and Joe Burrow. Of course Burrow will bring that number down soon, unless the Bengals continue to bungle. We should also note that from a dollars-per-win number, Mahomes appears to be a bargain since the vast majority of his wins were accumulated while he was still on his relatively cheap rookie contract.

There are seven former Broncos QBs who appear in the list, which was originally just the list of the top 100 earning QBs of all-time. Brock Osweiler, Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning, Case Keenum, Jake Plummer, Kyle Orton and John Elway.

To bring this back to us everyday mortals working 9-to-5 jobs, only 8% of all U.S. households earned more than $150,000 per year in 2020. That is about how much the LOWEST guy on this table earned PER START during his NFL career.

Poll

Are NFL quarterbacks worth what they are paid?

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    Yes

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  • 0%

    yes, mostly

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  • 0%

    I don’t know – I need more information

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  • 0%

    no, and get off my lawn you whippersnapper!

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